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Friendship & the Linux Community

friend

noun
1. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. A person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?

It would seem a simple thing, defining who and what a friend is. Deciding who is your friend is a fairly simple process.

Do I like that person?

Linux friendsYes.

Does that person like me?

Allegedly.

Do we enjoy each other’s company?

Mostly.

Okay…then, I think we can safely assume that the two people cited above are friends.

Friendships have been forged since man decided to get up off his haunches and walk on two legs. Of course, back then deciding who was your friend had more to do with the amount of trust in mutuality. Could you go to sleep knowing that person will remain awake and alert to danger? Will that person share his food when you have none? Will that person help or protect you in times you are not able to help or protect yourself?

Those were weighty considerations and friendships were born more out of the ability to survive another sunset rather than if they made a good Spades partner.

People have become friends basically the same way for hundreds or thousands of years. But that all changed not too long ago. The method by which many people became friends happened with the flip of a switch…the switch that turned on the Internet.

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

In 2010, Reglue began working with the various foster care organizations in and around Austin. We were overwhelmed with the number of requests received, just in the first week. The person ageing out of the foster system here in Texas faces a number of challenges. Having a computer to begin adulthood/college shouldn’t be one of them.

The kids we focused on were those within a few months of ageing out of the foster care system…that magic age where the young adult is eighteen. If the foster kid is going to college, the age for ageing out of the system is 24, or at least it was the last time I checked. As well, foster kids who face challenges of one type or another can apply to stay with the foster family if they are not financially or scholastically prepared to leave.

Ken Starks

Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue

Weighing in on SCALE & More…

FOSS Week in Review

My highly esteemed colleagues seem to have covered all the big stories this week on these digital pages, which leaves me to wrap it up on a Friday morning with the following:

Get those proposals in: The Call for Papers for the 13th annual Southern California Linux Expo — SCALE 13x, for those of you keeping score at home — ends in less than three weeks from today. Specifically, the CFP ends at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Dec. 10, but it doesn’t mean you have to wait until Dec. 9 to submit (even though many of you will…).

Larry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

Linux Outlaws Ride Into the Sunset

The introduction was inconspicuous enough. Philip Newborough, the lead developer for CrunchBang, tweeted to me: “They’re talking about you on LO.”

“LO?”

Linux Outlaws.

A few questions and a search or two later, I was at a Google Hangout where Dan Lynch, an English musician in the band 20lb Sounds from Liverpool, and Fabian Scherschel, a German tech journalist and rabid Pittsburgh Penguins fan, were discussing the FOSS issues of the day; Lynch with his subtle and deadpan delivery serving as an anchor and foil for Scherschel’s occasional — and hilarious — flights-of-ranting-fancy.

Fabian Scherschel and Dan Lynch of Linux Outlaws
Fabian Scherschel, left, and Dan Lynch make up a modern-day Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on Linux Outlaws
Photo by Fabian Scherchel – http://sixgun.org/
That was episode 303 of their podcast, and I was hooked on the Monday night taping of Linux Outlaws (usually on Monday nights, GMT, and fortunately for me, on the U.S. West Coast, Monday night GMT usually meant sitting in on the broadcast at around two in the afternoon).

Linux Outlaws is not for shrinking violets — it is portrayed on its site as “very much like listening to two friends sitting in a pub, having fun and talking about things they find interesting.” However, I think that sells the show short — it is far more entertaining than that (and when they say, “Not recommended for the faint of heart or the ignorant,” they mean it). Always straightforward and honest, always informative and humorous, Linux Outlaws never met an issue they couldn’t tackle with their unique brand of wisdom, insight and jocularity.

Now, Lynch and Scherschel — Dan and Fab to their relatives, friends, and a wide listener base — are at the crossroads. Recently, with the episodes well into the 360s in number, they decided to finish out the year with Linux Outlaws and ride off into the sunset.

I was able to catch up with them and ask where they’ve been, where they’re going, and other items of interest.

Larry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

On Reglue & Ken’s Kids…

I knew about Ken Starks long before he began writing for us about a year ago. In fact, I knew about him long before FOSS Force even existed. I knew about him from reading his Blog of Helios. I also knew about the important work he does, through his nonprofit Reglue project, getting Linux computers into the hands of school aged children in the Austin area, children who’s parents can’t afford computers because they’re having enough trouble keeping beans on the table and warm coats on their kid’s backs.

During the last year, since Ken’s been part of our team here, I’ve come to know Ken personally, and he’s everything he seems to be. He’s gruff, a little rough around the edges (with plenty of edges) and has a gigantic heart. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. Those edges and his big heart define who he is and without them Ken wouldn’t be Ken — and the world would be poorer for it.

Christine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Enhancing Education With FOSS

There are no profound revelations here…at least not in this post. It just serves to reinforce something we already know.

When we go into a home to give a child a computer, one of the first things we do is explain to them that we have installed Linux on their computer, not Windows. This announcement is usually met with blank stares or shrugs. They don’t care. They are just jacked that they are finally entering into the tech age at home.

The Windows CrowdMost times, any concern expressed is coming from the parent. Of course it would be. Their minds are locked into doing things one way.

We often address this concern quickly. Once we boot the computer, the machine becomes the realm of the child and aside from parental controls, the machine belongs to the child. We explain that explicitly. If the child had any qualms about what Linux is, they evaporate once we start the computer and click the applications menu.

Our custom distro, based on Linux Mint 17 KDE LTS, is a playground completely filled with learning opportunities. Many of the applications were taken from standard Linux educational apps available from the regular repositories. The 3.3 gig ISO file produces a live cd/install disk which not only provides hours of entertainment, it includes educational software that meets most any academic need the child will encounter. Many of our kids, however, are at the age where they like to play simple games. We’ve provided an abundant environment for that.

Ken Starks

Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue

Linux Distros & the ‘Except When We Don’t’ Syndrome

When my colleague Ken Starks wrote on FOSS Force the other day about his gripe with Linux Mint’s handling of updates, I was a little amused because I had just dealt with this issue during the recent Bash crisis. I run Mint Maya with Xfce and I expected to find the Bash fix in Synaptic, but it wasn’t there. When I eventually found the update manager, I actually quite liked the set up. Having system updates easily available seemed to make sense and I liked the design. Like many things in tech, it turns out that the design was a little accidental, the result of a conflict necessitating the removal of the system update functions from Synaptic. But it works. I kind of like it.

Linux Mint logoIt also seems to fit with one of the underlying philosophies of the distro. Mint is famous for being a desktop that anybody can use. Updates on the dash is a concept which a new-to-Linux Windows’ user can understand, maybe even without having to go to the forums for help — and a piece of cake for experienced free software users. In my case, the only problem I had is that I misunderstood the severity numbering scheme, figuring one to be most severe instead of the least, but I easily managed to patch and update my system.

I was impressed — which is why I was amused by Ken’s consternation.

Christine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Video: Ken Starks’ & Ruth Suehle’s Keynotes at OLF

Here at FOSS Force we’re proud to be associated with Ken Starks. We’re proud because of the great articles he writes advocating Linux. We’re also extremely proud that he was chosen to be a keynote speaker at this year’s Ohio LinuxFest. But most of all, we’re proud because of his big heart, which he expresses through his work through Reglue, the nonprofit he founded in 2005 to give Linux computers, and training on how to use them, to financially disadvantaged school children in and around the Austin, Texas area where he lives.

Indeed, it’s this last aspect that was honored at Ohio LinuxFest, and the work Ken does with his “Reglue kids” was his focus during his time spent behind the podium. He called his presentation “Deleting The Digital Divide One Computer at a Time.”

Lucky for us, his friend Randy Noseworthy put together a video of the presentation, which we’re happy to be able to offer here. We’re certain you’ll find it as inspiring as we do.

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